Often called the “Jewel of the Mekong Delta”, Ha Tien feels worlds apart from the flat, river-run landscape that travelers typically see when touring through this part of South Vietnam. Tucked into the southwestern corner of Vietnam and on the coast, the city combines the beauty of the Mekong Delta with the charisma of the Gulf of Thailand.
Boasting old colonial villas, floating markets, and limestone hills, Ha Tien is best known for being the jumping-off point for tourists heading to either Phu Quoc Island or Cambodia.
Charming City in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta Region
View of the river landscape in Ha Tien. Photo: pablo_marx.
A port and border city, Ha Tien is a part of the Kien Giang Province. Though most port and border cities are rather dull, Ha Tien shakes all assumptions as it charms visitors with its bold character and personality. Travelers that are passing through the area as they head to Phu Quoc or Cambodia, should reconsider their itinerary.
A perfect place to rest and recuperate, Ha Tien has enough to see and do for a 2- or 3-day adventure. One of two ports with ferries to Phu Quoc Island, Ha Tien is a popular destination for travelers from Ho Chi Minh City. From Ha Tien, HCMC is about 324 km (201 mi) to the east.
Travelers can reach the city from HCMC by road tripping through the Mekong Delta Region by car, bus, or even train. There are also domestic flights linking Ho Chi Minh City to Ha Tien.
Local street view of Ha Tien. Photo: pablo_marx.
Dating back to Ptolemy’s book, Geography, historians estimate that Ha Tien has been inhabited as a settlement and port for thousands of years. Identified by Ptolemy as Akadra, Ha Tien was once a port for Pithonobaste-Banteay Meas, a Cambodian district. Through the years, it was also known by the Khmer name Piem meaning port, and the Vietnamese name, Mang-Kham.
Panthaimas was the earliest known name of the district, which would become Ha Tien. However, it wasn’t until the Chinese that the city flourished. Chinese people who supported the Ming Dynasty arrived in Southern Vietnam while it was under the rule of the Nguyên lords who ordered Cambodia’s king to grant the land around Ha Tien to the Chinese people.
Accepting the deal, the Chinese began to develop Ha Tien’s markets and businesses. As Ha Tien emerged as a thriving community, the Vietnamese began to take notice. Under the rule of Emperor Minh Vuong, it became a territory of Vietnam. Though the city is officially a part of Vietnam, even today, the city honors its Chinese roots.
View from the Giang Thanh River. Photo: David Ackerman.
Preserved and restored are numerous Chinese temples, buildings, and artifacts. Most famously, the city is home to the Mac Cuu Family Tombs, who were part of the original founders of Ha Tien when it was an early settlement and port. Yet, like a melting pot, many cultures can be found throughout the city as various groups have left their mark on it over the years.
- The Ha Tien International Border Gate sits just 7 km (4.3 mi) to the west of the city.
- Estimated in 2019, there are 100,560 people living in Ha Tien.
- Ha Tien is Sino-Vietnamese and it means “river spirit”.
Although serene and peaceful, there are a plethora of attractions that tourists may find interesting in Ha Tien. From the main streets to markets, pagodas and temples, there are even natural attractions in the hills just outside of the city center. With both a beach and riverfront, tourists can also enjoy basking at the beach or strolling along the Giang Thanh River.
Border gate between Vietnam and Cambodia in Hà Tiên City, Vietnam. Photo by: .
The top attractions in Ha Tien are walking tours, the Market Zone, Tam Bao Pagoda, Hill of Tombs, Thach Dong and Nui Da Dung Caves, Ngoc Tien Monastery, and Mui Nai Beach.
Walking the Streets
Unlike most Vietnamese cities, Ha Tien can be easily navigated on foot. Most of the city’s hotels, restaurants, and temples are located within walking distance of one another. Tourists are encouraged to explore the area and oftentimes, they’ll find that some of the best attractions are just steps away from their hotel. The three main streets in Ha Tien are Tran Phu, Mac Thien Tich, and Dong Ho.
Tam Bao Pagoda
One of the most pristine pagodas in the city is Tam Bao. Originally built and founded by Mac Cuu in 1730, the temple’s excellent condition shows signs of restoration and renovations. On the pagoda grounds, there are multiple gardens and chambers. In the gardens, ornate statues of Buddha, monks, and the Goddess of Mercy are brought to life with vibrant hues.
At the back of the temple, a small garden holds the tombs of monks. Calm and quiet, the Tam Bao Pagoda gives visitors a break from the busy city streets.
Relocated and rebuilt, Ha Tien City’s Market Zone now sits on the riverfront. Merging multiple markets into one, the space is held in old hangar buildings. Sections of the market include the Cho Bách Hóa (dry goods), Cho Dêm (Night Market), Cho Rau-Thit (vegetables), Cho Cá (meat), and the Cho An Uông-Hoa-Trái Cây (cooked food, fruits, and flowers).
Produce for sale at the local market in Hà Tiên City, Vietnam. Photo by: Ken Marshall.
Most of the markets are open from early morning to night with only the Night Market opening for the late evening hours. Much of the produce and products in the market come from the local fishermen, farmers, and artists.
Hill of Tombs
Holding the graves of the Mac Cuu Family, the Hill of Tombs is just west of the city center. Set atop a green hillside, visitors can bask in the quiet nature of the gardens or tour the historic temple and shrines. In honor of the immigrants that founded Ha Tien, there are Chinese wall paintings and fine sculptures. At the back of the hill, Phu Dung Pagoda watches over the tombs.
Thach Dong and Nui Da Dung Caves
North from Ha Tien, in the limestone hills, Thach Dong and Nui Da Dung Caves have become popular tourist destinations. Nestled together, the caves can be walked in a loop, although one path does lead down to the local beach. Inside, locals have erected statues and shrines to various deities.
From Ha Tien, tourists can arrange to make the short drive out past gorgeous green paddies. Entrance to the caves is affordable and local guides are available to give walking tours of the area. Weekends can get crowded, so the best time to visit the caves is during the week.
Ngoc Tien Monastery
Looking down from atop a hill, Ngoc Tien Monastery sits on the south bank of the city’s Giang Thanh River. Rather plain in appearance, the temple has become famous for its amazing panoramic view of Ha Tien. On clear days, you can look out upon the vast landscape which includes the Giang Thanh River, Dong HO Lake, and even Cambodia.
Temple and gardens in Ha Tien. Photo: Jacques Beaulieu.
Mui Nai Beach
A short distance from the Thach Dong and Nui Da Dung Caves, Mui Nai Beach is the local’s favorite spot on weekends and holidays. Consisting of two bays, there are actually two sandy spots to Mui Nai Beach. The second beach, which sits further to the north, is the nicer and more popular destination.
Covered in darker sand, the shallow and calm water is safe for swimmers of all ages. On the waterfront, there are several restaurants with deck chair rentals available. Also nearby, beachgoers can enjoy attractions like a roller coaster, sea slide, and zip line.
Whether just passing through or staying for a while, Ha Tien has plenty of quality and affordable hotels throughout the city. Travelers will have the option of staying on the riverfront, by the beach, or in the heart of the city center. Keep in mind that most accommodations are still rather small, so it’s important to make arrangements early, especially when traveling during a holiday.
Ha Tien’s best hotels are the River Hotel Ha Tien, Ha Tien Happy Hotel, Thao Tran Inn, and the Sunrise Hotel Ha Tien.
View from a riverside hotel in Ha Tien. Photo: Dan Searle.
Ha Tien Happy Hotel – One of the best-rated hotels in the city, and located steps away from the city center, is the Ha Tien Happy Hotel. Rated 2-stars, the hotel has a 24-front desk, tour desk, and helpful staff who can assist in arranging activities or transportation. Some rooms have balconies and are available include double, twin, triple, quadruple, and family spaces.
Thao Tran Inn – Sitting on the beachfront, Thao Trân Inn is well-liked for its friendly staff, reasonable price, and beautiful property. Built just above the sand, the hotel gives guests direct access to the beach and boasts incredible views from the gardens. Every room has a private bathroom and comes with a desk and AC unit.
While there isn’t an on-site restaurant, there is a small seating area and the staff is prepared to serve basic breakfast for an affordable price.
Sunrise Hotel Ha Tien – Just a short distance from the beach, Sunrise Hotel Hà Tiên is another top-rated property in the city center that boasts ocean views. Featuring an outdoor swimming pool and garden, the hotel has free Wi-Fi and accommodating staff members that can assist with transportation, tour bookings, and room service. Each room has AC and a private bathroom.
River Hotel Ha Tien. Photo: River Hotel Ha Tien
River Hotel Ha Tien – Located right on the Giang Thanh River and possessing 79 rooms, River Hotel Ha Tien is one of the largest properties in the city. Committed to providing superior service, the hotel has free Wi-Fi, private parking, room service, and a 24-hour front desk. The modern rooms come equipped with a TV, AC, and Wi-Fi. An outdoor pool with amazing views is also on-site.
In addition to numerous hotels, there are dozens of restaurants in Ha Tien. Within walking distance of the city center, tourists will find a plethora of Vietnamese and international menus that use the freshest ingredients to make their dishes. With friendly staff and good food, the best restaurants in Ha Tien are Ocean Street, Nha Hang-Com Nieu Aquaki, and the Quoc Hoa Coffee Cafe.
Ocean Street – Not far from the Ha Tien Happy Hotel, Ocean Street Restaurant is a large property with amazing views and delicious food. Offering dine-in, takeaway, and delivery, the restaurant serves a variety of dishes including Vietnamese traditional favorites and international delights. Open for all-day service, guests can head there for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Nha Hang Come Nieu Aquaki. Photo: Nhà Hàng – Cơm Niêu Aquaki
Nha Hang-Com Nieu Aquaki – A favorite amongst locals and tourists, Nha Hang-Com Nieu Aquaki has a bright and happy atmosphere with great food. Available for dine-in or takeaway, meals are prepared by experienced chefs using quality ingredients. Most items are inspired by Vietnamese traditional dishes with barbeques and buffet spreads being the restaurant’s specialties.
Quoc Hoa Coffee Cafe – For breakfast and lunch, the best place to go is Quoc Hoa Coffee Cafe. Featuring a koi pond and garden, the cafe also has views of the water from its balcony. Aside from an assortment of coffee beans and blends, the cafe serves items like sandwiches, omelets, and pastries. Open for lunch and dinner, the cafe serves traditional noodle dishes and soups.
Ha Tien has many special events throughout the year that are unique to the city. During the first lunar month, along with the Tet celebration, the city celebrates the Chieu Anh Cac Literary Coterie, which was a literary forum that occurred during the 18th century. By the third lunar month, Thanh Minh is a time when the city sweeps the tombs and honors their ancestors.
During the summer months, at the end of May, a large celebration begins in honor of Mac Cuu, Ha Tien’s founder. Finally, in the ninth lunar month, the Sene Dolta Festival honors the Khmer people and their culture.
Mausoleum of Mac Cuu, the founder of Hà Tiên City, Vietnam. Photo by: Tho Nau.
One great feature of Ha Tien is that it can be easily navigated by walking. From the riverfront to the beach and city center, most of the tourist areas are close together. For travelers, this means that seeing the best sites and visiting restaurants won’t require transportation. However, a few attractions like the caves are outside of the city and may require arranging for a taxi.
Hotels are a great resource for travelers as the staff can arrange for transportation and some accommodations may even provide complimentary bicycle rentals to guests. Many travelers will also use boats or ferries in Ha Tien. While most ferries will take tourists to Phu Quoc Island, there may be a few local boats that will take travelers up and down the river.
Being a city located on the sea, Ha Tien receives an influx of tourists at two times throughout the year. While hot and rainy, the summer months bring tourists who want to relax by the sea to the city. Though, everyone tends to avoid traveling to Ha Tien in September, which is the rainiest month of the year.
After the rain and summer months, the next most popular time to visit Ha Tien is from December to March, as these months are the driest and coolest. Plus, with the abundance of holidays and celebrations, many will head to the city to spend their time celebrating the New Year.
View of the quiet riverside in Ha Tien. Photo: Steve Calcott.
Somewhat remote and in the far corner of Vietnam, Ha Tien has become known as a stopover destination for travelers heading to either Phu Quoc or Cambodia. However, there is a lot more to see in Ha Tien than meets the eye and travelers should reconsider their plans to just pass through. With a dynamic landscape and beautiful scenery, Ha Tien is one of the Mekong Delta’s hidden gems.
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Keyword: Ha Tien, Vietnam